Health Communication


Based on an ecological model of health, MPH@GW’s health communication elective courses help students learn to use communication and marketing as strategic tools to influence people, places and environmental conditions in ways that advance public health initiatives. These elective courses are designed for people looking to develop strong communication skills and who want to collaborate with other health practitioners to lead and execute impactful public health campaigns to improve a specific geographic area or demographic.

Social media and the internet have enabled health education and awareness campaigns to reach a broad audience very quickly, and the boom in new technology and health care apps means an increased amount of data is available to analyze health trends and create successful programs. To leverage these tools and opportunities, the industry needs strong communicators with leadership skills and marketing expertise to drive health care initiatives.

What Can I Do With Health Communication?

MPH@GW’s health communication courses will help prepare you to implement and supervise the communication and marketing components of public health initiatives, often to negate false news or biases in media reports. Professionals with a background in health communication may be able to create and lead clinical- or community-related awareness initiatives that promote health screenings, educational programs, immunizations and other advocacy efforts.

Milken Institute School of Public Health faculty research around health communication includes geriatric education, school-based violence prevention and surveillance of HIV-1 drug resistance in North America.

Fields of Interest

Professionals in health communication may work closely with the media, responding to their reporting of health matters, communicating risk and confirming or rectifying stories. They may also design campaigns around a myriad of topics, including school-based health initiatives, anti-tobacco programs, violence prevention and health disparities in minority populations.

Health communication professionals may work in private consulting firms, research institutes, wellness centers and large government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Job Outlook

Employment of advertising, promotions and marketing managers is estimated to grow by 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the average growth rate for all occupations1. The rising need for marketing professionals in health-related fields is due to the evolution of social media, advancements in technology, and increased efforts to improve individual and community health and promote healthy behaviors.


With MPH@GW, you will complete 9 to 11 elective credits hours. Interested in health communication? Consider choosing the following elective courses to match your interests.

Community Engagement & Advocacy


The course provides public health practitioners with tools and strategies for understanding, respecting, organizing, and collaborating with community groups and organizations to promote healthy behaviors. The focus is development of practical skills to harness resources available in a community to advocate for healthy lifestyles and positive health outcomes. Students work in teams of two or three to complete assignments. (Recommended previous coursework: Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Environmental and Occupational Health, Management and Policy Approaches to Public Health, Behavioral Approaches to Public Health, and Program Planning and Implementation).

Public Health Leadership Seminar


This course provides students with the opportunity to learn leadership lessons from the careers of a diverse group of leaders who are successful executives and entrepreneurs from multiple sectors including corporate, government, non-profit, and the arts. It will present the chance to discuss and reflect on leadership styles, provide exposure to leadership theory, assist in the development of effective networking skills, and prepare students for effectively engaging with their peers, personal network, potential employers, and business partners. The Leadership Seminar deliberately provides a unique setting for students to consider themselves as leaders in their personal lives and their careers.

Social and Behavior Change Communication in Middle to Low-Income Countries


This course will illustrate the ways in which social and behavior change communication (SBCC) programming influences behavior change in resource-constrained settings. The overall objective of this course is to demonstrate the ways in which behavior change and sociocultural theories underpin the development of SBCC programs in politically, culturally, and socially diverse settings. The course will make clear the importance, and challenges, of generating and applying high-quality evidence that can inform evidence-based programming. “Real-world” SBCC interventions will be used to illustrate the unique challenges faced when implementing programs in settings that require the coordination of international donors, host country governments, and implementing organizations.

Preventing Health Disparities


The purpose of this course is to provide students with an understanding of how social, political, and economic factors contribute to disparities (e.g., racial/ ethnic, gender, geographical) in health and health care and how to use evidence-based approaches to prevent or address health disparities. Upon completion of this course, students will be able to understand, define, measure, and develop methods to address health and health care disparities. This course will review theoretical frameworks and methodological tools for students to conduct research and develop interventions to reduce health disparities. The main objectives for this course include examining personal attitudes, acquiring knowledge, and gaining the skills to evaluate, discuss, and develop the programs/interventions/policies designed to prevent or address disparities in health and health care.

Social Marketing: Theory & Practice


This course focuses on the use of marketing principles and techniques to develop population-based health promotion and disease prevention programs. The emphasis is on learning how to incorporate a marketing orientation and marketing techniques to address the diverse range of issues and problems that are encountered in the modern day practice of public health. Students in this skills-based course will study and work in teams to apply a range of marketing strategies to real-world situations.

Marketing Research for Public Health


This course focuses on the use of marketing research techniques to better understand customers of public health programs, and thereby to improve program design, implementation, and effectiveness. A range of qualitative and quantitative techniques will be studied for their relevance to program planning, development, continuous improvement, and outcome evaluation.

Take the Next Step

If you are ready to advance your career in public health with an online MPH from GW, request more information today.